This pandemic has challenged even the sturdiest of relationships, as confinement pushes many couples towards separation.
China is currently experiencing a sudden spike in divorce rates. It’s possible that Australia will see a similar trend emerge when lockdown eases.
While coronavirus is likely to prompt many new separations, there are already couples who had begun the process prior to the outbreak and who are now navigating separation in the age of a global pandemic.
Potential health concerns, shared custody and financial challenges are further complicating an already murky emotional landscape for divorcing partners. No matter what stage of separation you might be in, the virus is likely to have an impact on your process of uncoupling.
As a Divorce and Separation expert I have witnessed this struggle with many of my clients. Questions about how to negotiate a financial split now that one or both have lost their jobs, how to deal with real estate decisions or the valuation of a business in the current market are echoed in each video call. The uncertainty is making already challenging decisions even harder.
If you or someone you know is currently navigating divorce during this time, here is what to consider when making decisions related to the separation.
If it’s not urgent, sit tight
When a relationship comes to an end, typically we are ready for just that — it to end. However, in this situation there are still several unknown factors that impact finances, children and work. Currently there is no end date for COVID-19 restrictions, and we do not know when life will return to normal.
In many cases the crisis will have impacted the financial position of both partners and therefore the outcomes of decisions made today may reflect the volatility caused by the pandemic. Where possible, allow the dust to settle and avoid making any significant final decisions during the pandemic.
Consider speaking with a professional, such as a divorce advisor, lawyer or financial advisor who can provide detailed information about how this pandemic may impact settlement outcomes.
Seek additional support
The emotional toll of ongoing conflict is challenging, and this may urge some towards finalising settlement as soon as possible. Consider seeking additional support such as working with a psychologist or divorce advisor who can help to manage an extended separation under these challenging circumstances.
Active Verve members may be eligible for a free coaching session with our Divorce and Separation Expert. Book a call here.
Other support services available include free financial counselling via the National Debt Hotline. You can also contact Lifeline and BeyondBlue if you are experiencing distress or 1800RESPECT if you’re at risk of family violence.
Understand the numbers
While financial settlements are being negotiated, spousal maintenance or support is often being paid. Spousal maintenance is a payment by one person to their ex-partner for living expenses such as mortgage repayments.
Spousal maintenance is generally negotiated privately between two people and typically depends on whether one person can demonstrate a financial need for support and that the other has the capacity to pay.
Undertaking a detailed and accurate budget is an essential step to demonstrate either a need or lack of capacity. Once a budget is prepared, think carefully about financial obligations and capacity to pay. Although it may be difficult, having money conversations in a calm and respectful manner with an acknowledgment of the difficulties being faced is ideal.
Consider speaking with a separation and divorce advisor or psychologist about how to approach these conversations.
If talking directly to a partner about the separation or divorce finances is challenging, consider utilising services such as separation mediation. During this time we are continuing to work with couples via video conference or phone in an attempt to assist separating couples resolve their differences as quickly, cheaply and effectively as possible.
Separation and divorce negotiations are never easy, even at the best of times. In the current climate, there are a multitude of factors that are further inflaming and complicating separation.
It’s important to remain calm and balanced when making important and life changing separation decisions. Support networks and professional advisers can be of great assistance in these times.
Keep well and safe.
About the Author — Jacqueline Wharton
Jacqueline Wharton is the Divorce & Separation Expert in Verve Super’s Support Squad. Verve has partnered with some of Australia’s leading women-led businesses to give members free access to experts and coaches when they need it most. Jacqueline has helped over one thousand clients negotiate divorce and separation since launching her business Separation & Divorce Advisors. Relationship breakdowns are pivotal moments for securing present and future wealth. Jacqueline offers Verve members a free 60 minute session to identify strategies to approach the financial, emotional and parental negotiations that come with a separation.
If you are a Verve member, you can book a session with Jaqueline here.